NEOCONSERVATISM has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to one of its prime architects.
Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies.
In an extract from his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads, Mr Fukuyama declares that the doctrine "is now in shambles" and that its failure has demonstrated "the danger of good intentions carried to extremes".
In its narrowest form, neoconservatism advocates the use of military force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones.
Mr Fukuyama once supported regime change in Iraq and was a signatory to a 1998 letter sent by the Project for a New American Century to the then president, Bill Clinton, urging the US to step up its efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power. It was also signed by neoconservative intellectuals, such as Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, and political figures Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the current defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
However, Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism," he argues.
"Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally."
Mr Fukuyama, one of the US's most influential public intellectuals, concludes that "it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention [in Iraq] itself or the ideas animating it kindly".
Going further, he says the movements' advocates are Leninists who "believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practised by the United States".
Although Mr Fukuyama still supports the idea of democratic reform - complete with establishing the institutions of liberal modernity - in the Middle East, he warns that this process alone will not immediately reduce the threats and dangers the US faces. "Radical Islamism is a by-product of modernisation itself, arising from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society. More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalisation and - yes, unfortunately - terrorism," he says.
"By definition, outsiders can't 'impose' democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective."